Click title or picture for full article.

Primitive Cooking Methods

Whether we are backpacking or in a survival situation, having a knowledge of wilderness cooking techniques is important. We may not always have cooking equipment so lets go over some alternate methods.

Primitive Cooking methods we will cover include:

  • Cooking over coals (ash cooking)
  • Broiling rack / Tennis Racket
  • Plank Cooking
  • Hot rock cooking / Steam Pit
  • Flat stone cooking
  • Spit cooking or spit roast
  • Clay cooking

  • Outdoor cooking without proper equipment can be a challenge. After practicing several methods, it can actually be fun. There are many ways to cook you food in the outdoors. Most people think of outdoor or survival cooking as simply using direct heat. Often we think about using skewers or simply hanging the food on a log.

    Possible ways to cook the food are:

  • Radiative heat - Grilling, roasting
  • Steam/li>
  • Baking

  • For the scope of this article, we will cover methods without cooking equipment.

    Cooking over coals (Ash cooking)

    We are using fish (white Perch) for this method. We prepare the fish and use Kudzu leaves to wrap the fish. We always make sure to use non-poisonous leaves to protect the food.

    The great thing about Kudzu is, we can use the Kudzu vine to wrap the leaves. We like to use multiple layers of leaves since they will be in a bed of hot coals. Note: The kudzu leaves are edible.

    Once the fish is wrapped properly, we want to create a bed of coals. We spread the coals and make an indentation in the coals to lay the wrapped fish into. Use another stick to cover the fish with the coals.

    Cook time would depend on the size of the fish. We cooked the perch for fifteen minutes and it was ready to eat.

    Broiling Rack / Tennis Racket

    One day while trying to find leaves to wrap my fish without much luck, it became evident that broiling was going to be our next choice. Since we were near a body of water, river birch and willow was plentiful in the area. We used a small river birch sappling making sure it was flexible enough to bend into a oval shape and the smaller branches are pliable enough to use as cordage.

    Using some of the left over branches we added crossbars and the flexible cordage allows them to slide up and down the racket to fit the fish. We only used one bar to tie the fish down, we would recommend using more to keep the fish from ending up in a pile of coals. The idea is to either keep the fish at a distance from the flame, or build a bed of coals and slow roast it.

    Plank Cooking

    During a recent visit to Ontario, Canada, we were able to cook fish using the plank method. My great friend Caleb Musgrave from Canadian Bushcraft demonstrates this technique during our cold weather travels. Plank cooking is another option for cooking out in the bush without pots or pans. We use a non-poisonous wood of course and stick to woods without strong tasting resin like conifers. Woods that work great are poplar, cedar, and oak.

    We split the wood using an axe or baton it using a knife. We used a piece of poplar about 9 inches in diameter. We split the small log in half, cut a nice plank to position behind our plank while cooking and lastly cut a piece out to use for our pegs. The pegs will hold the fish or meat to the wood. Another option is to tie the food to the board. Once the pegs have been shaped, we can use the knife to initiate the slot for the wooden pegs. We then place the fish on the wood and lightly tap the pegs into place.

    Once we have the fish properly secured to the plank, we want to place it near the coals (but not too close). We want to ensure the fish has plenty of time to cook all the way through without burning the outside. You can place your hand closer to the coals slowly. If you can hold your hand for a few seconds before it starts to feel uncomfortable, you are at a good distance. The wooden plank can be held horizontally by placing another piece of wood behind it. Remember the plank we cut at the beginning? Otherwise if using a fire wall, we can place the wood vertically and lean it against the firewall while it cooks.

    Slowly the fish will begin to brown and our food is ready to eat. Fresh fish is one of nature's delicious gifts. Great meal even without any spices added. A little wild garlic would have been great as well. Bon Appétit!

    Special thanks to Caleb Musgrave of

    Hot Rock and Steam Pit

    On the following pictures we dig a hole and line it with rocks. We then build a fire inside of the hole heating up the rocks. The fish is wrapped with non poisonous leafy plants. There is a lot of kudzu in the area so we wrapped it in kudzu leaves. We used some of the hot coals to start a fire next to our poncho shelter and place the fish at the bottom of the hot rock pit. Cover it up with some of the soil we pulled out during digging and let it sit for a few hours. The fish comes out nicely cooked and moist. This same method can be used for other types of food, the only things that change are the size of the hole and the cooking time.

    Creative Commons License is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.